Change Revisited ~ Process vs. Identity
A couple of my earlier posts described my thoughts on change.
Today though, while holding one of my Fitness Coaching sessions, I realized that the posts I wrote on change were only 1/2 correct, with a whole other half missing.
You see, in my earlier posts, I recommended changing one habit at a time. I was basically saying that by making the change a methodical process, you can achieve a greater rate of success than if you were to go for it all in one fell swoop. The recommendation was to simultaneously raise your standards while also chunking down the process into manageable steps.
Although, I still agree with those points, I must say it leaves a lot to be desired.
The question earlier today, was after one of the women started “working out” again this past weekend. She started with walking and was complaining that she felt that she needed to do more and that it was a waste of her time. During the previous fitness coaching session, we had discussed Chunk Theory and how, in order to grow, progressive change was needed in order to handle progressively difficult tasks. At the end of every meeting, everyone has to pick one, manageable habit they will stick to for the week. She had choose to workout two times.
As with many people that have trouble sticking to a workout routine, she has an All-or-Nothing mentality. She thinks that if she doesn’t go 5 days a week, for 1 hour each time, then she’s wasting her time. The problem of course is that if you’re not currently working out, finding an additional 5+ hours to workout can be an arduous task.
My answer though, reflects my true beliefs about change. Here’s a paraphrase:
“There are some instances, very few instances, where a person will decide to make a large change, such as working out 5 days a week, quit smoking, etc. and be able to do it instantaneously with little after thought. The reason they are able to do this, is that they have changed a part of how they see themselves. They have changed their “identity.”
“Typically this happens when a large environmental change occurs, such as someone you care about dies from lung cancer, you have a child, you get a divorce, and it shakes to your core, the very center of ‘Who you think you are.’
“You recognize, in an instant, that you have been someone “you’re not” and will no longer be that person. It shakes the core of who you are emotionally and when you finally put together a plan that works logically, the change happens instantly.
“On the other hand, there are other things we would like to see happen, but we only think that it would be nice to change. Emotionally, were vested in other options, such as eating delicious but crappy food or playing with our children. We want to save more money, lose some weight, exercise more often, etc. and are only partly committed to seeing those things come to fruition.
“For these “on the fence” changes, you want the change to occur slowly. This is where planning and patience become the fundamentals to which you build that habit up. When you allow yourself to change one habit at a time, and build it up slowly, you allow yourself to actually incorporate that change into your daily repertoire.
“The key to choosing either method is being realistic with yourself. If you only want to change ONE habit, without it disrupting the rest of your life, then you are not having a ‘change of identity.’
“If on the other hand, you are ready for this change to change every single aspect of your life, then you might just be ready for a large change.
So the question for you, dear reader, is are you ready to make exercise an integral part of your life, where tomorrow, every other habit you have will be shifted?
The answer, is probably not. And that’s fine.
The real question, is if you’re not, then what are you going to do about it? Will you allow yourself to start the process slowly of adding exercise to your life? Will you allow yourself to start slowly, with small, manageable tasks and build up gradually? To this, you should answer, “Yes.”
So, I will leave this post with one last question:
“What is the ONE new behavior that you will start before next week?”
Remember, to start small and be specific…with the key word being START.